The Boston Marathon bombing trial began on Monday as potential jurors started arriving at a federal court, where a 12-member judge panel will take the final decision on the execution of 21-year-old suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Over 1,000 eastern Massachusetts residents will be filling out the questionnaires for the selection of jury members for the April 2013 case. Some of the queries included in the questionnaires include: Can you be fair? or Can you impose the death penalty if conditions are met?
Jeremy Sternberg, an ex-federal prosecutor who is a partner at Holland & Knight in Boston, said, “This jury selection process is going to be like very few others in a federal criminal case. It’s going to take a very long time. Its importance cannot be overstated.”
Meanwhile, the court watchers said that the procedure of seating a qualified jury will be difficult task and may take weeks.
The twin bombings at a Boston marathon finishing line in the year 2013 had left three dead and injured over 260 people, causing limbs amputation to at least 16 people.
The trial will unfold in two phases — a guilt phase followed by a penalty phase if necessary — and could take months to complete. Having the same jury sit for both phases raises the stakes of jury selection all the more.
“I have real concerns that no matter who sits on that jury, they have been impacted in some way by the events of the Marathon bombings. We hope that, at least in the second phase, we get someone to look at the factors objectively,” said Michael Coyne, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover, Mass.
Earlier Tsarnaev’s lawyers have requested for change of venue and delaying the trial but Judge George O’Toole had turned down the defense request to move the trial out of Boston.
If convicted, Tsarnaev could get death penalty. A 2013 poll by Boston Globe showed 33 percent of people in Boston believe Tsarnaev should be awarded with the capital punishment. Two polls conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2013 and 2014 showed more support from across the state as 59 percent of respondents said Tsarnaev should get death term.